Saturday, July 28, 2012

Step Up Revolution [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Roger Ebert's review

Step Up Revolution (directed by Scott Speer, characters by Duane Adler, screenplay by Amanda Brody) is a summer dance movie, the fourth in the Step Up [IMDb] franchise.  I would add that IMHO it's a pretty good one.

First, this film is stationed in Miami.  I had been stationed previously in Orlando, Florida for three and a half years.  So during that time, I did get to know Miami somewhat: Little Havana and yes South Beach (during the day).  And from what I saw, I could tell that Miami would be a great place to stage a "really cool dance movie."

Second, I've always liked "Avant Guard" / Contemporary Art (I admire the creativity and often enough its humor -- a 3 foot "sheep" covered by "steel wool" ;-), a "kitchen scene" painted on a "canvas" of broken plates...).  I've regularly attended the gigantic Art Chicago art fair held here in Chicago each May.  Hundreds of galleries from every continent / corner of the globe converge here each year for this event.  (Indeed 2012 was the first year since my coming to back to Chicago that the Art Chicago exposition was not held.  Perhaps it was a casualty of the Chicago NATO Summit held here this year at about the same time). I mention Contemporary Art here because one of the "flash mob" dance scenes in the film takes place at supposedly "a contemporary art museum" somewhere in Miami and IMHO the scene was "just awesome" ;-).

Finally, I also have to say that this movie "brought me back" to "dance films of summers past" when I was in my 20s when films like Flashdance [1983], the original Footloose [1984] and Dirty Dancing [1987] were first released.

So what's the film about?  Well certainly it doesn't run like a Hemmingway or Dostoyevski novel ;-).  Just like the Fast and Furious [IMDb] franchise is about showcasing "really fast cars," the Step Up [IMDb] franchise of films is about showcasing "really hip modern dance."  So the plot's "kinda thin."  But even here even if the plot's broth is quite spare, honestly, plot's not necessary bad.

The film is about two childhood friends, Sean (played by Ryan Guzman) and Eddy (played by Misha Gabriel Hamilton), who grew-up in Miami were part of an avant guard dance troupe of friends.  Along with those friends, the two came up with the idea of staging "flash mob" dance events with their group across Miami and putting video of these performances onto YouTube in hopes of winning a large cash prize for being the first non-commercial channel on YouTube to get more than 10 million hits.  The well choreographed "flash mob" scenes are of course awesome and (in the movie) quickly gain attention.  Indeed, (in the film) awestruck passerbys happily capture these performances with their own cell phones, etc and "post them online" as well.  (If I saw something like what this group of performers were doing, I'd probably doing the same ... :-)

However, despite their emerging notoriety, dance certainly wasn't paying their bills.  Both Sean and Eddy had day jobs working as waiters at a Miami Beach hotel, owned by a Midwest real estate tycoon named Bill Anderson (played by Bill Gallagher).

It turns out that Bill Anderson has a 20 year old daughter Emily (played by Kathryn McCormick) who has dreams of becoming a professional dancer.  Sean and Emily meet accidently at the hotel's bar and do some flirting which proceeds to some dancing.  Much ensues ... (though all remaining on the film's PG-13 level)

Things come to a head when it turns out that Bill Anderson's firm applies to demolish the neighborhood where Sean and Eddy grew-up, including their "salsa playing" hang-out where they and the rest of their "mob" first met.  What to do?  It's Emily who suggests turning "Performance Art" into "Protest Art."

Yes, the fans of our nation's notorious Gas Bags and Billionaires would probably initially hate this turn.  But actually the movie does quite well here.  To have the characters in the film do nothing would be in effect to tell the young people of our time to just "shut up and let them demolish your house," and yet the now "Protest Artists" learn that even in protest _one has to remain positive_.  Negativity gets one _no where_.  What a great lesson!  And one that could give hope to all kinds of young people who, being young, would like to make a contribution/mark in this world, rather than simply sit, perhaps complain and eventually grow old and die.

So my hat off to the makers of this film.  You made not only a very good, perhaps even great dance film, but also one with a simple and yet positive message.

One final note.  This film was made in 3D.  However, I saw it in 2D (and therefore for the 2D price).  It worked perfectly in 2D.  So there's no need to pay the extra $4/ticket to see the film in 3D.

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